- Khalee Kreider and her family have seen dairy and egg production thrive recently at their Lancaster County farm.
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Nearly 200,000 farms graced the Pennsylvania landscape when the Kreider family founded Kreider Farms in a pristine Lancaster County valley in 1935.
Through three generations, the family watched farming operations dwindle to a quarter of that number, victims of increased costs, falling prices, climate change, trade wars, and pandemics.
Khalee Kreider, representing the fourth generation at the family farm, grew up hearing about and watching her great-grandfather, grandfather, and now her father continuously pivot and adapt to keep the farm strong.
She never imagined that one day she’d be part of that legacy.
From models to milk bottles
As a child, Khalee spent countless hours at the family farm. In spite of that proximity, she never had a formal job at the farm while growing up.
Her dream was to become a fashion designer.
After high school, Khalee left home to study design, then went to work in the fashion design industry in Philadelphia. But the drone of corporate monotony surprised her. After two years, she was done.
Khalee moved home and took a job in the Marketing Department on the family farm. That was five years ago. Khalee has grown into her role, finding an unexpected creative outlet in product design, dressing milk bottles instead of fashion models.
Through the process of leaving and returning home, Khalee gained a new outlook on the elements that have helped Kreider Farms stand the test of time.
“Even though I grew up around it,” she says, “in the five years working here I definitely have a much better appreciation for it.”
Investing in the team
In her dad, Ron, who runs the farm as President and CEO, Khalee saw a man who would not allow the operation to become stagnant.
“My dad, one of his missions and visions, is how do we keep pushing forward?” she says.
After taking over the farm, Ron expanded his team to 475 employees overseeing dairy and egg production on 3,000 acres. He made a point to not only invest in the land but to build his team, instituting new technologies and experimenting with new ideas.
Ron’s goal, says Khalee, always has been to help his employees grow and step into leadership roles, whether as skilled technicians, managers, or hourly general laborers. Creating a culture of family-centric friendliness is a top priority.
Part of that culture includes putting a focus on listening.
“We try to be very transparent and very open,” Khalee says. “Everybody’s opinion matters and is heard. No idea is a bad idea, because again, we’re always trying to improve and move forward.”
Sustainable practices, innovative ideas
Investing in the land and buildings that make up the farm also is important to the Kreider family. In the valley where the heart of the farm sits, newly sided white barns dot the rolling hills of untilled fields, shaggy with off-season ground cover.
From seed to feed to table, Kreider Farms oversees the entire life cycle of its products. What’s grown in the farm’s fields feeds their 1,700 dairy cows. American Humane Certified for its egg and dairy production, the family also strives to practice sustainable farming.
Incorporating new ideas into the ancient art of farming is a constant for the Kreider family. Visitors to the 2023 Pennsylvania Farm Show in January might have seen the Kreider Farms’ newest product, Chiques Creek hemp teas, a blend of black tea and hemp seed oil. It’s the latest in its offshoot Chiques Creek brand that includes nutritionally dense eggs from hemp-fed chickens.
Back to her roots
While Kreider Farms remains primarily a Lancaster County brand, Khalee would love to see it spread Pennsylvania-wide and potentially become a nationally known name, extending into another generation of family farmers.
Staying viable as a family farm takes considerable dedication, Khalee says. She loves being part of the family business and hopes that one day she and her siblings can hand that legacy down to the next generation.
“Just because you think you know what your path is doesn’t mean you do,” she says. “That’s kind of how it worked out for me, at least. I was going to take a totally different road, and then, somehow, I ended up back here. It’s funny how your roots always come back.”